Walker Valley High School teacher Luajean Bryan, Hopewell Principal Tim Riggs, Secondary technology coach Tim Childers and Bradley county Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel offered their opinions on the positives and challenges of the state-offered Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model evaluations.
“The model that we are using has some very positive components,” Bryan said.
She said the TEAM evaluation has pushed teachers to use new strategies and methods in the classroom.
“It has pushed me to the limit sometimes because it’s hard to cover all the points ... but it has been effective as far as getting me directed ... and more focused,” Bryan said. “It’s a cleaner focus than what I have had in the past.”
Many teachers, including Bryan, have spent several hours preparing lessons to include everything on the evaluation rubric. She said it is impractical to show all the aspects in one lesson. Several teachers pointed out that differing class times do not give teachers the same opportunity to achieve the rubric goals.
Bryan suggested breaking the rubric down and focusing on certain elements during the planned observation.
McDaniel said a positive element of the TEAM evaluation was the “focus on teaching and learning.”
“The Danielson Model that team is built around, it’s a solid model for best practices,” Childers said. “Teachers have looked at that rubric and said ... ‘There’s something I haven’t tried before,’ so it is broadening their horizons a little bit and showing them everything that is possible there.”
The evaluations have also encouraged teachers to discuss ideas with one another and question why they are using the methods they are, according to Childers.
Childers said the Danielson model is meant to be a growth model to measure a teacher’s growth over a time span of years, not just one year. Based on the rubric, a teacher would have to do 100 things in a lesson to cover everything.
Bryan said she knew her students learned better during her unplanned observation, but she did not think her observation score would reflect that.
Riggs said the evaluation provides built-in “one-on-one time to discuss things with the teacher,” which he sees as a positive. However, Riggs said teachers who have been teaching for a long time should not have the same number of evaluations as newer teachers. Riggs suggested having fewer evaluations for seasoned professionals, so that principals can focus on helping newer or poorly performing teachers.
Panel members also said the evaluation system gives them an outlet to reflect on their teaching. Suggestions were also made for improvement.
Darlene Looper of Meigs County suggested some of the evaluation points be moved to different sections of the rubric to allow more time for observation.
Beth Brown of Grundy County said the TVAAS scores was not always a good reflection of her teaching because sometimes students do not care about doing well on the test.
Brown and Childers said the rubric also uses absolutes such as “Always” which make the goals seem unachievable. They suggested changing the wording to make it more attainable.
“I believe that most teachers want to be the best that they can be, but we hold up something that is almost an impossible target (with the TEAM rubric),” McDaniel said. “As educators we don’t [seek to] do that. We have targets that are clear, they’re precise and we try to get our students there. That’s what I want for our teachers.”
Learning the model while it was implemented has also made the transition to yearly evaluations difficult.
“If we are able to come back and adjust our model (TEAM evaluation), I think it will be a better model,” McDaniel said.
The state-approved alternative Project Coach was also discussed. This model is used in Hamilton County Schools.
Jill Levine, a teacher in Hamilton County, and Hamilton County Director of Schools Rick Smith said piloting the program last year has been a benefit to the system now that yearly evaluation is required.
Smith expressed concern about the plan to help underachieving teachers. A parent and a business representative were also a part of the panel to discuss their views.